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News & Blog

Make the choice to be responsible and successful

Posted: 26th July 2016

Being a responsible business can mean different things to different people, but in the end it always comes down to the same basic thing…it’s about the choices we make as organisations. Being a responsible business means making choices that will deliver a good, sustainable business but also deliver quality products and services and ensure that people have positive dealings with you.

These choices can manifest themselves in a number of ways. For example:

  • We choose what it is that we produce and offer. In our case at Cyrenians, we have a number of offerings, from our veggie boxes from our own farm right through to our new resolution training service. But in all cases, we try to ensure that what we do is sustainable, ethical, and meets a real need
  • We choose what kind of relationships we want to have with our customers and suppliers. When we work with businesses, for example, it’s not just about the financial aspect it is about what positive benefits we can deliver to them as well as enjoying benefits ourselves
  • We choose how we operate as an organisation. Do we pay the Living Wage? Is there the right support for our people? Do we encourage a positive culture?

These are just a few forks in the road where businesses and other organisations face real choices about how they want to behave. The route we take goes a long way to deciding whether we are responsible or not.That is why I think the Lord Provost’s initiative encouraging Responsible Business in Edinburgh is such a positive thing. It brings all kinds of people together, and through his office he is able to get people together who might not otherwise do so, and he can encourage us all to find ways to ensure more and more Edinburgh businesses are truly responsible.

It makes perfect sense. I would think very, very few businesses set out to be irresponsible, so we are all positively motivated in the first place. It can just be very difficult, when you face the stress of making businesses survive, to worry about whether everything you do is “the right thing.” But this initiative brings together shares experience and expertise, brings large and small businesses together to help one another, and brings co-operation across the private, public and third sectors.

And more and more we all understand that Responsible Business, or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), is about a lot more than just having a charity to support at a corporate level, or encouraging staff to do the odd sponsored walk. CSR should never be a whitewash that allows organisations to feel a bit better about themselves as they carry on disregarding the real issues that define responsible businesses, some of which I talked about earlier.

I am very proud of the way Cyrenians works. For example, our veggie bags in a box offer people the chance to buy high quality, fresh, local food while supporting the work of our farm, which in turns helps homeless young people develop new skills. It’s a win-win for everyone who gets involved, and more information about the project is available on our website. We’ve also just launched a resolution training service. We have a real track record in conflict resolution, and we are now offering that expertise through our training. When you consider that 5000 young people in Scotland every year become homeless following conflict at home with their parents, you can see how helping people resolve their difficulties could help us tackle a major social issue. We have huge companies in Edinburgh, like Standard Life, firmly supportive of the Responsible Business initiative and we are seeing more Small and Medium-sized Enterprises begin to understand the real value of getting on board.

Responsible Businesses are often more sustainable, more successful because people like working for them and with them. The key to that success is embedding the values you hold all the way through the organisation, in every aspect of what you do.

Business Comment

Business Comment is the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly magazine. It provides insight on Edinburgh’s vibrant business community, with features on the city’s key sectors, interviews with leading figures and news on new business developments in the capital.
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